In last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on “Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”
The President’s call for reforms was prompted by civil unrest surrounding recent events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, and elsewhere. But where Obama was content to issue vague calls to action, leaving the heavy lifting to Congress and local leaders, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, with whom the President has spoken on issues of reform, is willing to get specific.
Booker has been an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs in the past, citing racial disparities in arrests and calling for marijuana possession to be punishable only by a small fine.
“We in America are paying an outrageous amount of money” to incarcerate non-violent offenders, Booker said in a call to reporters. “One of the best ways to boost the economy is to reduce government spending when it’s unnecessary.”
Booker also formed an unlikely alliance with libertarian Senator Rand Paul last year to sponsor the REDEEM Act, a bill that would help shift tax dollars from criminal punishment of drug offenders to getting them better prepared to find work and move on with their lives. The bill, among other things, would make it possible for people to seal their non-violent criminal records from employers and others, return welfare benefits to non-violent offenders, and keep minors out of the adult justice system.
“Our country’s misguided criminal justice policies have placed an economic drag on communities… and on our nation’s global competitiveness — all while making us less, not more, safe,” Booker has said.
The REDEEM Act died before getting to committee, but Senators Paul and Booker are both still active in Congress, and anxious for change. With President Obama echoing their concerns, what the future holds for criminal justice in New Jersey and America is anyone’s guess.
If you can’t wait for Congress, and need help navigating the New Jersey criminal justice system today, call Chance BailBonds at (877) 647-5731.